Plato's Sophist [66-67]

Here Aristotle has two things in mind. On the one hand, everyday employment of these expressions must betray the understanding natural Dasein has of them. Admittedly, they are not, for everyday Dasein, rigorous scientific concepts—since, in general, a first self-expression, as first, is undetermined and never a univocally fixed concept. Yet this does not preclude the possibility that Dasein's understanding is here on a secure path. As is the case with all everyday speech, with the expressions in question Dasein moves in the indeterminateness of the "more or less"; one does not speak about σοφός but about μᾶλλον and ἧττον σοφός; one cannot give definitions, but one knows this is σοφώτερον than that. Such a comparative mode of speech is characteristic of everyday language, and the question is only to grasp it and to hear out of it what the μάλιστα of this μᾶλλον is. Aristotle pursues this method in Metaphysics I, 1. In addition, Aristotle takes an orientation from what Dasein says directly and explicitly about the σοφός. He follows this method in I, 2.

Aristotle takes his first orientation from the comparative mode of speech characteristic of everyday language. There various levels of understanding manifest themselves; these occur in natural Dasein itself and are familiar. In the μᾶλλον and ἧττον there is a tendency toward the μάλιστα, and τέχνη is already μᾶλλον σοφός than ἐμπειρία. The τελείωσις hence points in the direction of ἐπιστήμη and θεωρεῖν. Aristotle demonstrates that his interpretation of σοφία and θεωρεῖν is nothing else than Dasein's own interpretation, made clear and raised in self-understanding.

Aristotle articulates five different levels of understanding to be found in natural Dasein, namely the levels of:

1.) κοιναὶ αἴσθησις (Met. I, 1, 981b14), the common orientation toward the world;

2.) ἐμπειρία (usually translated as "experience" [Erfahrung]), getting used to [Eingefahrensein] a particular operation;

3.) τέχνη, or the τεχνίτης or the χειροτέχνης, the laborer, who works with his hands, following the guideline of the determinate orientation of τέχνη;

4.) the ἀρχιτέκτων, the architect, who does not himself work on the building, does not put his hands to it, but who simply moves in the domain of applicable knowledge and whose main task lies in drawing the plan and contemplating the εἶδος—an activity which is still a ποίησις, since it aims at the fabrication of the house;

5.) simple θεωρεῖν, onlooking and exposing, where it is no longer a matter of χρῆσις.

In each case these levels manifest a μᾶλλον of σοφόν in relation to the previous one. In enumerating the levels of understanding, I began with the Dasein of man.